Challenor School in need
THE DOORS of the 26-year-old Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre have not opened this term and will remain closed unless the centre gets financial assistance.
Chief executive officer Sharonne Taitt said problems at the school had been steadily escalating and came to a head in July.
“What we have here are buildings which are former plantation houses, and are 200 years old, housing a charity. We have a situation with maintenance issues and a lack of sustained funding, and have come to the point where the Ministry of Health thinks we need to address those issues,” she said.
Taitt said health inspectors made a routine end-of-term check in July and discovered mould, termites, rodents, leaking roofs, old pipes and asbestos, and subsequently made a report to the Ministry of Education and to the centre’s board of directors.
Taitt said they were in the process of relocation.
“We are diligently working on getting the students relocated. We need to find proper places to accommodate them; we need to get the centre up and running again and we need support from corporate Barbados, the public and Government so these students can reach the goals they are capable of reaching,” she said.
Taitt said the school had received a subvention from the Ministry of Education but as it was a charitable organisation, it did not actually fall under any one ministry.
She also said the school largely depended on the “kindness of strangers”, but donations had dwindled due to the economic climate.
“It is very sad because we are the flagship for accommodating those with disabilities. We are one of two such centres in the Caribbean which cater to . . . those with mild disabilities to the profoundly disabled,” she said.
As for parents, Taitt said they were looking to have a meeting with them this week.
One parent, Charileen Brown-Herbert, wrote a letter describing her feelings, noting: “The Challenor School which is an important part of our society has been closed down. Over the years it was not repaired as it should have been and moss was left to grow and destroy the building.
“Now the students and staff have nowhere to go. Where is Government in all of this? Why is the representative for St Thomas [Cynthia Forde] not there asking these questions? Why is nothing being printed front page in the newspapers about this tragedy?” she wrote.
Another parent, Cynthia Boyce, said she did not know what to do with her 18-year-old son since she had to work.
“I can’t afford private care. He was supposed to finish school this year but I have nowhere to put him so they allowed him to attend Challenor for another year, but now I don’t know,” she said.
However, Taitt said some support had come from Government, especially Minister of Education Ronald Jones, whom she described as “emphatic and supportive”.
“These children are capable of a lot and we need to make sure we take care of them in the manner which they deserve,” she added.